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Highlands, Knoch freshmen steal WPIAL spotlight at swim championships

| Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, 10:45 p.m.

Age wasn't a factor Thursday at the WPIAL Class AA swimming championships at Pitt's Trees Pool.

Highlands freshman Bailey Bonnett took home the top spot in the girls 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2 minutes, 6.12 seconds. Knoch freshman Brooke Zukowski was second, with Freeport junior Bria Otwell, last year's winner, finishing third.

Bonnett and Zukowski look to provide strong competition at the top of the 200 IM for the next few years. That's nothing new for the WPIAL newcomers.

“We used to swim together when we were little on (the Allegheny Valley YMCA Gators),” Bonnett said. “We know each other quite well and we're both friends, so it's fun.”

The tough competition wasn't all Bonnett battled in her first trip to the WPIAL championships.

“I always get really nervous for everything I swim. It doesn't matter if it's a little race or a big race,” she said. “As soon as I dive in, it feels like the nerves dive away with me. It's weird. I don't really think about it as much when I'm in the water.”

Another underclassman, St. Joseph sophomore Sabrina Joseph, handily won the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 56.69.

Also qualifying for the PIAA meet was the Burrell boys 200 medley team, which finished fifth in 1:44.52.

In Class AAA, Fox Chapel junior Noah Cagley narrowly missed an automatic PIAA qualification when he finished fourth in the 200 freestyle in 1:43.11.

The top three finishers from all Class AAA events automatically advance to the PIAA meet March 12-15 at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium. Class AA swimmers get four girls and five boys entrants to states.

In Class AAA, North Allegheny held a 1.5-point lead over Upper St. Clair in the boys team standings, while the Tigers girls were cruising with 271 points to second-place Mt. Lebanon's 121. The West Allegheny girls finished Thursday in the Class AA team lead with 149 points, and the Mars boys were tops with 116.

Day 2 starts at 10 a.m. Friday with Class AAA, and Class AA starts at 3 p.m.

Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at ghorvath@tribweb.com.

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